Hats off to the finely dressed fellows of Chatham County Line, who took first place two weeks ago at the Rocky Grass band competition in Lyons, Colo., progressing past a first round of 13 bands to nab the title in a showdown finale on July 25.
"We played three songs and blistered it," fiddle-and-mandolin-man John "The Prince of Bluegrass" Teer said from a Colorado mountaintop near Salida last week. "But we were definitely sticking out like sore thumbs, up there in our suits, with all of the other bands in shorts and T-shirts or whatever."
The victory comes during Chatham County Line's debut western tour, which has taken them from Jackson, Miss., to Fort Smith, Ark., with a ten-stop Colorado state tour on the way--all in a Dodge touring van with an upright bass case strapped to the top. The guys played at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Okla., sitting in with Sara Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, gawking as Steve Earle played a perfect solo set, and singing along with Arlo during a closing, epic take on "This Land Is Your Land." Zeke Hutchins, who joins CCL frontman Dave Wilson in Stillhouse, has been touring with Arlo Guthrie of late, so the bands had plenty of catching up to do between sets. This news beats the traditional bluegrass quartet home, but they will return to Durham for an Aug. 6 spot on Fowler's Front Porch along with Bluemont Road. The band will play The Pour House on Aug. 13, a gig that will double as Wilson's 30th birthday party.
Longtime Pour House Music Hall denizens may have already noted the shift in The Pour House's booking patterns of late, but if you haven't, the intimate, two-level haunt at Blount Street is worth a look. Marianne Taylor, who returned to the area a little over a year ago after leaving the Raleigh music management run-around to spend nine months soaking in the sounds of Nashville, is flooding the club with great country shows. When she returned from Nashville, Pour House owner Eric Mullen offered Taylor a job booking shows on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, though he quickly decided to hire her as his permanent assistant given the success of the alt.country (Dave Alvin, Scott Miler) and honky-tonk (Dale Watson) bills she was putting together.
Aside from her booking skills, Taylor is bringing more than a taste of what she calls "real Southern hospitality" to The Pour House. She's been making the club's green room more artist-appropriate and making special arrangements with bands to create a more comfortable on-the-road existence.
She locked Jerry Jeff Walker's tour cache in the venue safe after his November set there before taking him to the bank the next day to exchange the cash for cashier's checks. She also arranged for Dave Alvin to load out the morning following his Yep Roc CD release party there last month.
"Music is my greatest passion. I believe in karma, so I think if we treat people right, things will go well for this club," Taylor said over breakfast on Hillsborough Street. "That's my vision for this place, and I think that's important."
In other Pour House news, Jac Cain--former Lubricator and Brewery landmark--is now behind the boards five nights a week. Cain began working at the club as a substitute, but Taylor was so impressed with his work and his work ethic that she signed him up.
"After that Dave Alvin show, the guys from Yep Roc asked me if Dave had his own soundman. I just laughed and told them it was just Jac, just our guy," Taylor smiled. "He's one of the best in the country. That's how good he is."
Strange is now a few steps away from the completion of their long-awaited debut. The band wrapped up recording weeks ago with Greg Elkins (Whiskeytown, The Rosebuds, Vanilla Trainwreck), and recently mastered its Pidgeon English debut with Travis Leonard at The Kitchen. Look for it in September.
Raleigh's coolest all-girl trio just became a quartet. Erin Bell played her first show with The Pinkslips in Chapel Hill recently. Weeks ago, she took notes during a gig at Bickett Gallery. She made her Capital City debut two weeks ago, when The Pinkslips opened for Schooner and the white-boy rap attack Mothlight at Kings during Futurock weekend.
The incendiary-as-all-hell, garage-rock duo The Loners will not be playing Sleazefest this year, as they broke up following an opening gig for The Forty-Fives at Fowler's Garage. And that really sucks.
If you've got information about the Raleigh scene for Grayson, get at him at email@example.com.